High performance pair the best of both worlds for Hewson

By Dennis Ryan

29 Sep 2022

High performance pair the best of both worlds for HewsonMustang Valley (Courtney Barnes) takes a big step to the Arrowfield Stud Plate with an easy win in t

Nick Hewson is a believer that you can have your cake and eat it too.
In his sales and nominations role at Windsor Park Stud Hewson has responsibility for broodmare bookings to the Cambridge nursery’s stallions. On the other side of the coin is his direct involvement in the racing careers of two high-profile progeny of two members of that six-strong roster, Vanbrugh and Turn Me Loose.
Last Saturday Vanbrugh four-year-old Mustang Valley landed the black-type win she deserved with a dominant performance in the Gr. 3 Boehringer Ingelheim Metric Mile at Awapuni, while Turn Me Loose filly Lickety Split, already a Group One winner as a two-year-old, kicked off her second season by winning the Gr. 3 Northland Breeders’ Stakes and is now competing in the Melbourne spring carnival.
The weekend ahead has the potential to be the biggest ever for Hewson and his various associates in the high performance pair, with Mustang Valley likely to back up in the Gr. 1 Arrowfield Stud Plate at Hastings and Lickety Split entered for the Gr. 2 Edward Manifold Stakes at Flemington as her final lead-up to the Gr. 1 Thousand Guineas.
Hewson bred Lickety Split in partnership with Dean Hawkins, a part-owner of Cambridge’s Wentwood Grange. The pair’s friendship dates back to their teenage years working at Windsor Park. At the time Taranaki-born Hewson was a quality rugby player, making the Waikato under-19 team and then taking those skills to Hong Kong where he cemented his place with the enclave’s national XV and seven-a-side teams.
Central to his Hong Kong rugby career was the Valley Rugby Football Club, based at the Happy Valley racecourse and each of the club teams carrying an equine-themed subtitle. That’s the origin of the name given the Windsor Park-bred filly Mustang Valley, who is now raced in partnership by her breeders and a group comprising 10 of Hewson’s Hong Kong rugby associates.
“The stud retained 50 per cent and we split the other half into five per cent shares,” Hewson told RaceForm. “I originally had a share but then another of my Hong Kong mates wanted in as well, so I transferred it to him.
“That’s okay as I’m still involved managing Mustang Valley. For a lot of the guys she’s the first horse they’ve ever been in and some don’t even know what a Group One race is, but we keep in touch through a WhatsApp group and they’re learning.
“As for Lickety Split, Dean and I race her with our wives as well as friends of ours from Queenstown, Matt and Jess Kilkenny, and another old Hong Kong mate, Matt Delahunty, who now lives in Waihi.
“The way things have worked out between the two horses it’s been a whole lot of fun and hopefully more to come.”
Mustang Valley, who carries the appropriate red and black with horse insignia Valley RFC colours, has been the big shortener on the TAB’s fixed odds market for the Arrowfield Stud Plate. After being at long double-figure odds until last week, the Andrew Forsman-trained mare tightened to $8 after her Awapuni win and Monday’s withdrawal of long-time favourite Imperatriz brought her into $4.60 behind the new $2.60 favourite La Crique.
“To begin with we entered her for Hawke’s Bay thinking just maybe – that’s about when I backed her at 61s – but the way things have worked out we’re looking more and more a chance,” added Hewson. “It will be up to Andrew but given she likes to get her toe in the ground it would be good to see her get the chance.”
Should that be the case, and with Lickety Split also in the Edward Manifold at Flemington after her plucky Melbourne debut third in the Thousand Guineas Prelude, late Saturday afternoon is looming as an exciting few hours for Hewson and friends.
From a professional perspective Hewson is already well satisfied with the recent headlines being made by Vanbrugh, Turn Me Loose and other members of the Windsor Park roster.
“They’re all going well, Shamexpress included with an impressive debut winner (Denby Road) at Tauranga on Sunday, and Vanbrugh with three winners in the second half of last week. His filly Sheez Dominant won the Wanganui Guineas as well, which makes him the only stallion to sire two stakes winners in New Zealand this season.
“And of course Turn Me Loose is going great – he was the leading second season sire in Australasia with five individual stakes winners last season.”
For Hewson, being so closely connected to both Mustang Valley and Lickety Split makes for an exciting personal involvement, but balancing that is his commitment at the busiest time of the year in his workplace.
“You do like celebrating when the occasion arises, but you also know next day there’s a job to do, so that means you just keep putting one foot in front of the other and getting things done.”